For a website to appear in the search results, its content and search snippet need to contain the words that users search for. These words are known as the keyword or keyphrase.
To give your website the best chance of appearing in the search results, you need to:
- Identify the keyphrases that search engine users are searching for.
- Make it obvious to Google that your content matches keyphrases that its users are searching for.
In this article, we’ll learn how to identify which keyphrase to be found for (to rank for) and then how to use these keyphrases in your website content.
In SEO lingo, you’ll hear a lot about keywords. Keep in mind that this can refer to single words as well as phrases with multiple words, i.e. keyphrases.
Keyword Research: Finding The Focus Keyphrase
Keyword research is the process of coming up with a list of keywords and keyphrases you want to rank for. You then need to create a piece of content for each keyphrase.
For example, if you want to rank for the keyphrase
party planner sydney, the words
party planner in sydney,
sydney party planner or a variation of this keyphrase should appear somewhere on your website.
There are two broad considerations when conducting keyword research:
What is your audience searching for and what words are they using? If your website ranks well for these keyphrases, you’ll attract traffic that is ready to buy / subscribe / engage with what you have to offer.
To continue with our user-focused approach, start by thinking about the keyphrases your audience may use to refer to your topic or niche. Let’s say your topic is event styling and you offer a party design and decoration service (or you’re writing a blog post about the topic). You may feel that the most relevant keyphrases for your topic are
event styling or
party decorating. However, Google Trends shows us that there are many more people searching for
party planning instead.
Since there are more people searching for party planning, it might be better to use this keyword or a variation of it (e.g.
party planning and styling) in your content instead.
Tip: Once you’ve identified a keyphrase to rank for, search for it and then look at the related searches for more keyword ideas. Searching for our keyword suggests that maybe we should also consider
event styling as a keyword.
The next factor to consider is the competition in your market. You’ll want to identify how you are unique and stand out from your competition. The search engine results pages (SERPs) for your targeted keyphrase may be dominated by some large brands with more resources than you. In these cases you may want to start with a longer tail keyword instead.
When comparing to your competition you should also identify how you stand out from them. Expanding on our example above, perhaps you have a party package for a baby’s first birthday. That is a unique offering and you could rank highly for a long tail keyword like
1st birthday party stylistor
1st birthday party decoration ideas. Once your website begins to rank for this keyphrase, you can expand and target broader keywords.
Use the Targeted Keyphrases in Your Website Content
To rank for a keyphrase, search engines must be able to match the keyphrase to a piece of content on your site. Therefore the next step is to create high-quality content for each of the keyphrases that you want to rank for. This will require a some time and effort so don’t worry about creating all of this content immediately—it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
When you strategically create content to rank for a specific keyphrase, it becomes the focus keyphrase for that content. Your focus keyphrase doesn’t always have to be an exact match. Let’s say your focus keyphrase is
make healthy smoothies. You can write, “Learn how to make the best healthy smoothies” or “3 steps to making healthy smoothies” and they will count as a match for the keyphrase too.
The goal for this step is to use the focus keyphrase in strategic and high-value locations in the content. In this section we’ll explain where these high-value locations are, and how to use keywords optimally.
SEO title and description
This is also known as the search snippet which we introduced previously. It is one of the most important ranking factors, so be sure to include the focus keyword in at least the title.
Add modifiers like “2019”, “fast”, “guide”, “checklist”, and “simple” to trigger the curiosity of the user and get them to click on your search results snippet.
The article permalink
The permalink is also known as the URL of the page. For example, this article’s permalink is:
The last part of the permalink (
how-to-use-keywords-in-your-content) is called the article slug and can be controlled from the snippet editor of your SEO plugin too. Try to include your focus keyphrase in the slug.
Can you guess what the focus keyphrase for this article is?
The first 100 words of your content
Building on the previous tip, help search engines understand what your page is about by including your keyword in the first few sentences of your content. This also helps improve the user experience of the page as it helps you get to the point quickly instead of meandering around.
Subheadings are high value locations because website visitors will lock on them as they skim through the page. Include your focus keyword in at least one subheading to emphasize the keyphrase to Google.
Headings are hierarchical and start from H1 down to H6. There should only be a single H1 in your content and that should be the title of your article / blog post. Every other heading you add to the content should be H2 and down.
Subheadings also improve the readability of your content. This improves the dwell time and can contribute to your rankings.
Throughout your content
You should repeat the focus keyphrase (and its variations) several times throughout your content to help search engines understand what your page is about. Be sure to use variations of the focus keyphrase, otherwise your text will end up sounding like it was written by a robot and unpleasant to read.
Image Alt text
The alt text for an image is a description of the image. It may appear if the image fails to load and is helps visually impaired website visitors (even search engines) understand the content of the image.
Try to include the focus keyphrase in the alt text of images in your content. Take it a step further by including the focus keyphrase in the image name too e.g.
While we’re talking about images, always include 1-2 images in your content as they help improve dwell time too.
What about keyword meta tags? Search engines haven’t relied on these since the 1990s. Don’t believe me? Believe John Mueller from Google:
Further Reading: Keyword Research & On-page Optimization
We have written this article to be easy to read and digest. If you want to learn more about about finding and using keyphrases effectively on your website, read up on keyword research and on-page optimization.
Backlinko’s keyword research guide is an amazing resource for helping you understand the best way to find the most relevant keyphrases for your website.
Ahrefs’ On-Page SEO guide dives into some technical aspects in an easy to digest manner, and builds on what you’ve learn in this article.
Finally, Yoast Academy has some great SEO training available. Start off with the free SEO for Beginners course and move on to more advanced topics when you’re ready.